Washington divided over sending Patriot missiles to Turkey - Politico

The U.S. special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, is at odds with the Pentagon over sending additional military equipment to help Turkey fight against Russian-backed Syrian government forces, U.S. news outlet Politico reported on Friday.

Jeffrey has been pressing the Defence Department to send Patriot missile defence batteries to Turkey to help it repel the Syrian government’s assault in Syria's Idlib province, it said citing four people familiar with the matter.

But Pentagon officials are worried about the global ramifications of a move they see as reckless, it said. 

At least 36 Turkish soldiers were killed as a result of Syrian government airstrikes in northwestern Syria on Thursday, plunging Turkey deeper into the war there.

Following Jeffrey’s visit to Ankara earlier this month to discuss Idlib, Turkey formally requested Patriot missile systems for positioning near the Syrian border. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on the same day, however, made it clear that the U.S. administration was unwilling to intervene amid an intensifying Russian-backed Syrian military offensive in the region.

The latest disagreement between the U.S. State Department and Pentagon is the latest illustration of how Washington has struggled to tackle the long-running, multi-sided conflict in Syria, Politico said.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision in October to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria was met with aides' requests not to fully pull out, it said.

Senior leaders at the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defence are resisting Jeffrey’s proposal, State Department and DoD officials and two additional people familiar with the discussion said.

Turkey’s decision to acquire Russian S-400 missile defence systems has strained its relations with the United States, which halted the delivery of 100 F-35 jets to Turkey and suspended Turkey’s participation to the programme to build the stealth fighters.

The United States is looking to provide urgent assistance to Turkey in Idlib province in the form of information sharing and equipment, a senior State Department official told reporters on Friday. 

Ruling out “military moves by American units,“ the official said, “there are other ways we can support them.”